Latin America and Caribbean record 500,000 virus cases

Almost half were recorded in Brazil - the country worst hit by the pandemic in the region

Indigenous people attend the funeral of Chief Messias Kokama, 53, from the Parque das Tribos (Tribes Park), who passed away due to the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), at Parque das Tribos in Manaus, Brazil, May 14, 2020. Reuters
Indigenous people attend the funeral of Chief Messias Kokama, 53, from the Parque das Tribos (Tribes Park), who passed away due to the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), at Parque das Tribos in Manaus, Brazil, May 14, 2020. Reuters

Latin America and the Caribbean have recorded more than half a million coronavirus infections, according to a tally based on official reports.

Almost half have been recorded in Brazil – the country worst hit by the pandemic in the region – which also has more than 15,000 deaths.

The tallies, using data collected by Agence France-Presse from national authorities and information from the World Health Organisation, probably reflect only a fraction of the actual number of Covid-19 infections.

Many countries are testing only the most serious cases.

More than 4.7 million people have been infected around the world since the virus first appeared in China late last year.

At least 313,000 have died from the disease and more than 1.8 million have recovered.

Brazil's confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus rose on Saturday past those of Spain and Italy, which was once the epicentre of the pandemic, making Brazil's outbreak the fourth largest in the world, according to official figures.

Brazil's Health Ministry registered 14,919 new cases in the preceding 24 hours, taking the total to 233,142, behind the United States, Russia and the United Kingdom. Brazil has done just a fraction of the testing seen in those three countries.

The global distinction is likely to pile pressure on President Jair Bolsonaro, who lost his second health minister in a month on Friday as he defies public health experts and calls for widespread use of unproven medicine.

Mr Bolsonaro has been fiercely critical of the orders by many of Brazil's state governors for strict social isolation and quarantine to combat the spread of the virus, including closing schools, shops and restaurants.

Mr Bolsonaro argues that the toll on the economy is becoming unbearable and businesses must be allowed to reopen as soon as possible. The government now expects Brazil will post its biggest annual economic contraction this year since records began more than a century ago.

Brazil's Vice President Hamilton Mourao underwent a Covid-19 test and was placed in isolation at his official residence on Saturday, after a public servant who had been near him last week tested positive.

Updated: May 17, 2020 02:46 PM

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